Thonius and Walkyn return to the Spiked Eel dripping with blood. Though seen as somewhat tactless, very few eyes are batted and they clean up quickly in the back room. Kragyn, Ayla and Martin also arrive at the Spiked Eel after their excursion in the Merchant’s Quart.
The bar is nearly empty – only Two-Boar, a Riddick named Remy, and the other employees of the Spiked Eel remain come nightfall. Meanwhile, Martin approaches Two-Boar and asks for a meeting with Gram. Unfortunately, he is tied up in a meeting, so Martin orders his stew and waits patiently. Ayla however still has the incident in her father’s house fresh on her mind and is inspired to ask Two-Boar if his knowledge of drink and vintage could help her identify the mysterious bottle she found.
The party brings the bar to life and ordering a feast of stews, roast fowls, lagers and wine to satiate their empty stomachs. After witnessing a serving wench named Helgana easily dismiss Remy’s unwanted flirtations, Thonius tries his hand and fails just as miserably. Walkyn – a family friend of Helgana’s – takes Thonius aside and makes some threatening, paternal remarks. Kragyn seizes the opportunity to work his charm on the wildish, independent woman. Although she gives no straight answer, Kragyn gives her the address of Thonius’ old residence – 4th and Tailor.
Two boys enter the bar, covered in soot, and Two-Boar yells at them to get quickly to work.
Kragyn’s roast duck appears, and he gets ready to tear into it with Petey, he recognizes the boy serving him. He grabs his wrist, trying to place his face. The boy’s green eyes stare back unafraid, but with a practiced, trembling voice says: “I just work here, sir. A boy’s gotta make a living.” The same words he had said to Kragyn and Ayla in the burning house, when he and his brother – the barback of the Spiked Eel – and in the subtle tones of his voice, the message: don’t blow my cover. Kragyn lets him go, but not before Walkyn notices.
Walkyn detaches himself from warning Thonius away from Helgana, and tears himself away from his unfinished drink to follow Tyryn (the fifteen year old boy) into the kitchen. Nana, the muscular chef, yells at him to stay out of her kitchen, and Walkyn nods gracefully and exits – through the backdoor, following Tyryn. After interrogating him gently and firmly, Tyryn confesses that he and Dennoyn robbed a burning house in the Beggar’s Quart, against the wishes of Two-Boar, and Kragyn caught them there. Satisfied with this answer, Walkyn lets him go and re-enters the bar – taking the long way around, to avoid walking into Nana’s kitchen.
Meanwhile, Two-Boar has convinced Ayla to let him drink of the beverage she found, after telling her that it was mostly likely an independently distilled Doxie whisky. She finds out that the bottle is of Doxlyn origin, but has no label declaring its vintage or lineage, and so must depend on his own senses. He pulls out a delicate, blown glass doxie tumbler, and pours a slight dram from the bottle.
He is suddenly overwhelmed by the strength and flavor. He murmurs to himself, citing hints of brine and the burnt vanilla of toasted oak barrels, with a hint of sweetness in the finish that suggests a transfer of the whisky into a wine barrel in the latter years of its aging. He offers Ayla increasing amounts of money for the bottle – up to an amount of a thousand silver. She declines, and asks if he can pinpoint where it might be from. He begins, but is then interrupted by the basement door opening.
Gram stands there, his scarred hands dripping with blood. Martin murmurs, “Ah yes. A meeting.”
At Gram’s command, everyone clears out of the bar save the party, Gram himself, and the Riddick called Remy. Seating himself at a spill-polished table, Gram begins to question Walkyn’s progress on the Brutus case. He then asks Thonius and the party whether they’ve made any progress, since they’ve returned to the Spiked Eel.
Though they haven’t, Gram relays that new information has come by the High hearth that may make their search for Miraz and Aelia much easier. He gives the table over to Remy, who speaks with preposterous, extravagant gestures and a thick Riddixon accent.
He explains that they have finally identified exactly what it was that Brutus stole, almost exactly one year. The item was an antediluvian artifact that the Glorium was transferring in secret to their southern provinces. Brutus somehow got a hold of its location, stole it, and secreted it away before being killed by Sylvestus in interrogation. This was the fulcrum of all the events now put into motion – Sylvestus losing his hand and becoming harsher, Thonius’ self-imposed exile as a fugitive in a nation of fugitives, the violations of the Anahearth Accord, the disappearance of Miraz and Aelia.
The artifact itself is a sword – rumoured to be the sword of Censun, the favored mortal of Hyacinth, and the Saint of Diplomacy. Legends often say it is most powerful when sheathed. It has a guard shaped like wings, and -
“A Wreathed Wren on the hilt?” Ayla asks.
Remy is flabbergasted. “’Ow did you know?” he demands. Gram does the same.
Though in disbelief himself at the revelation, Martin finally sees the party gaining an advantage in their negotiations with the cunning Gram. He withholds the information and begins bargaining, hoping to fulfill the party’s goals. Gram, unused to being disadvantaged or in want of knowledge, grows increasingly irate. This triggers tensions in the room, until finally Kragyn goes so far as to insult Gram’s reputation.
With deadly matter-of-fact quietness, Gram begins to give directions. Three days along the Ackerly Road, seven leagues west of the Riverwild. Three trails leading into the goat and sheep field to the south, one path going into the raised village to the north. Twenty three huts at last count. The hut by the tomb houses the Abbot. The hut with the straw roof houses Aldus.
It becomes obvious he describing in intimate detail the location and specifications of Moss Park, Kragyn’s home. The implications are terrifying. To Kragyn, it is infuriating. He stands up, ready to act on his instincts – but Gram continues using his favored weapon. He asks after Kragyn’s catatonic mother, and calls him son of Dworn, though Kragyn never gave his full name to Gram. The anathema then explains to Kragyn in detail how small a fish he was, and that he has gone from a small pond to a black and stormy sea. And the sharks are hungry.
At Martin’s insistence, and Thonius’, Kragyn sits.
After much haggling, Martin finally secures what they came to Anahearth for – an audience with the Abbots and Pastors of the High Hearth. In return for all the information they have on the Sword of the Wreathed Wren Sigil. And in good faith, he also promises Kragyn the location of “the Patchwork Man.” Walkyn also bargains for the right to kill Micklin, a fence he has a grudge against, and Gram agrees to let him batter and scare and rob him, but not to kill him.
The party spill their story – the tree House, the Iron Roses, the steel longswords. The attack on Staghead, the taking of the Sword, the books they also attempted to steal. Gram suddenly remember that yes, Staghead does have an extensive library in the basement of its monastery. Many questions are raised, but go unanswered: How did Abbess Lillian from the Rosarium get her hands on it? What is the nature of the sword? Of the sigil?
Satisfied, Gram promises a meeting with the High hearth tomorrow, at their convenience. He then raps his knuckles on the table, and the bar flicks back to life as if the meeting never happened.
Ayla, completely uncomfortable with the entire exchange, walks to the door only to find it locked. Two-Boar unlocks it for her, and she stalks out into the night – only to find a crowd of sancsters ten people deep standing silently outside. She walks through, unnerved, and takes off into the night.
The rest of the party exits the bar and notices that the famous fire of the High Hearth – the tower that lights the city – is extinguished. Which means tonight, the High hearth is conducting business. Sancster business.
The four of them head towards Micklin’s house. Once there, Martin wakes Micklin at his window and purchases a few items. With the knowledge of the layout, the others make their move – Thonius sneaking to the ladder up to Micklin’s “counter”, and Kragyn and Walkyn stepping over the fence into the yard. Unfortunately, Micklin’s sleeping dogs awake, and as soon as they make a threatening move, begin to attack.
Martin manages to lure one away buy using the animal training techniques he picked up from Kay in the Wilderness. Walkyn makes short work of the hounds, and Kragyn and Petey do their part with the others. Thonius however finds a Great Hound snapping at his heels underneath the ladder. The beast weighed easily a ton, and it’s massive jaws threatened to devour him. With a clumsy grace and surprising cool, Thonius pushes the splintering ladder away from the wall of the house and jumps onto the Great Hound’s back – grappling him around the neck.
Ayla, hearing the commotion from a few blocks away, sighs and runs in to join the others, and all of them save Martin converge around the Great Hound, nicking and scratching it with their weapons.
Finally Micklin cries out in fear, pleading that they don’t kill his prized possession. Walkyn makes a deal with him – they walk out with everything in the house, and his dog lives. Micklin, with more than a little reluctance, finally agrees to Walkyn’s persuasive argument. Micklin calls off the Hound, who then paces across the yard, licking its wounds, that Ayla begins to treat. The others look at each other, and make their way to the door. Sancster business, indeed.
MVP: Walkyn, dog slayer.
Hardest Time: Kragyn, for having his entire village threatened with death.
Best Lesson: Kragyn – I am a very small fish in a very large pond, and sancsters are more ruthless and less honorable than I imagined; I may have to become like them to survive.